Friday, 23 July 2010

Vancouver day 3

I wake up feeling a bit more normal, though I still haven’t had a full complete sleep. I have to get up at 6am as I have a 6.50am taxi pick-up for my Rocky Mountaineer trip. My hairdryer runs on half speed here and blows mainly cold air but my hair behaves itself more than usual. The water here is super soft which makes my hair and skin feel super soft. I want to take it back home.

My taxi driver is crazy. He is Pakistani and doesn’t appear to talk much English. He drives like a maniac and we fly over speed bumps. Downtown he careers round a corner, his back tyre smashing loudly against the kerb. He half glances round at me but doesn’t say anything. I give him a 10c tip.

A porter at the Fairmont Hotel opens my door and when he discovers I’m not a guest but merely there for my mountaineer pick up he suggests I go round the corner to some cafe for breakfast.

It’s now only 7am so I don’t really feel like breakfast. My bus pickup is 7.30 so I wander round and take some early morning pictures of downtown glass buildings. I go in and sip on a peppermint tea before heading back to the hotel.

A group gathers around, all for the pickup. An Australian woman comes over to ask if I’m waiting on the pick up and I start talking to her and her boyfriend. They tell me they’ve moved here from Melbourne. They go on about loving my accent and she says she thinks the Glaswegian accent is beautiful. I laugh saying that’s the first time I’ve heard it described like that. She says it’s so distinct and ‘lyrical’. He says he loves it too even although he can’t understand everything I say.

Our bus finally arrives at 8.20. Our train leaves at 8.30 from the North side of town but the tour guide says they will need to wait for us. We cross the famous Lions Gate bridge over to the North.

We arrive at the train and I say my goodbyes as I’m in a different carriage. I get a window seat and the seat beside me is empty so I have even more space on what is already an extremely spacious train. The seats are so comfy and the service is first class. A mile apart from the distinctly cramped flight on the way out.

The rain holds off to allow fantastic views of the scenery as we journey to Whistler. There is a mist and low cloud which makes for very atmospheric views across the lakes. My favourite parts of the journey are when I venture out to the observation car which is outdoors. The train slows down at the most scenic points to allow people to take photographs. As we move past waterfalls and rocks I am so close that if I stretched my arm out full I’d be able to touch them. It makes me feel very connected to nature and makes me appreciate its beauty and the peacefulness of nature. So much purer than the soulless downtown.

We’re served breakfast and drinks all the way and our ‘server’ gives us a running commentary. The train manager walks through the carriages saying “How are you today?” With a serene smile on his face. I think what a cushy job he has!

The train arrives at our destination, Whistler. We’re bussed into the town centre. It’s very much a winter sports place – the 3 Olympic Rings are still visible on one of the snowy mountains, which symbolised the finish line. The village has quaint wooden buildings which make me think of a Christmas village, as if Santa and his little elves could very well live here. There are large groups of mountain bikers catching chair lifts up one of the mountains then speeding down. Die hard sports enthusiasts.

I have lunch outdoors at a local restaurant called La Bocca, though I have to keep my coat on as it’s a bit chilly. The man at the table next to me goes one better and keeps his woolly hat on. The waitress doesn’t understand what I mean when I ask for a still mineral water. She is confused by the ‘still’ part, saying she has never heard of this before. She ends up bringing me tap water.

After lunch I head to a couple of small art galleries. One of them contains the most amazing paintings. Vast scenery with stunning colours, the blood red of a sunset has tinges of black which makes it jump off the canvas. Every time I see good art work it makes me want to paint.

On the bus back to the train we have a bus driver with a very broad Vancouver accent. He says ‘aboot’ a lot and it makes me smile.

On the way back to Vancouver on the train I relax a bit more, not so frantic to capture the scenery on camera, having taken about 100 photos on the journey out. I pay more attention to the commentary. Near the village Squamish is North America’s second largest rock face which is called ‘The Chief’. After climbing the rock face people have to hike off.
As we pass through the West End we are told lots of celebrities buy property here, and some of it is the most expensive property in the whole of Canada. The most expensive house is $37 million. Apparently it was two British men who persuaded people to start moving west and started selling properties here.

One of the nicest parts of the whole journey is when people watch out for the train to wave at us as we roll past. I see a young couple rushing out on the balcony with their baby to wave. Everyone who waves does so with a big smile on their face and something about it makes me want to cry; they look so friendly and happy and it feels like a true connection in a world where people are usually too busy to stop and say hello. (hmm, that is unless you’re travelling on the number 20 bus).

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